A Brief History
On January 24, 2003, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began its operations. This new agency was born from the ashes of the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001. It had been painfully obvious that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA) and military intelligence agencies had not been effectively communicating with each other and that unless something was done to institutionalize such coordination, the U.S. would be vulnerable to more such attacks.
Given the mission of protecting the United States and its territories from both manmade and natural disasters, as well as from terrorist attacks, this agency has over 200,000 employees and a budget of over $60 billion. Only the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are bigger cabinet departments.
Just some of the agencies that come under Homeland Security include: the Transportation Security Administration (TSA); Customs and Border Protection (CBP); the Secret Service; Citizenship and Immigration; and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Even the U.S. Coast Guard which had formerly been under the Treasury Department is now under Homeland Security. In all, a total of 22 agencies were consolidated into Homeland Security and its “child” agencies. Not surprisingly, Homeland Security is also responsible for “cyber security,” the protection of the nation against cyber terrorists.
The Department of Homeland Security has taken a lot of heat from Congress and the public, with allegations of scare mongering, ineffectiveness, wasteful spending and lack of congressional oversight. The charge of “data mining” or collecting vast amounts of information from private U.S. citizens and companies by intercepting phone calls, texts and emails, as also done by its partner agency, the NSA, is a hot topic today. Still, the country has been relatively safe since the creation of the department, so it can justifiably claim some success. Public opinion of DHS, however, is even lower than that of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)! And supposedly morale/job satisfaction at the department is at rock bottom.
Question for students (and subscribers): Please share your thoughts on whether or not this department is a necessary addition to U.S. government bureaucracy or what you think they are doing right and wrong. Or, what can the DHS do differently to be more effective? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Whitehead, John W. A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. SelectBooks, 2013.
The featured image in this article, a White House photograph by Tina Hager of President George W. Bush signing the Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2004 (PL 108-90) at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2003, is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.
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